“Island Park did it wrong in 1990, and we are paying for it now,” he added. “We fought reasonably and powerfully, but we were rejected by the court. Paying the 9 percent yearly interest on the original $5.4 million judgment against the village would have destroyed us.”
The new settlement includes $568,000 in fines, and a requirement that the village spend up to $300,000 to hire a new official who would establish a fair housing program designed to attract 17 new African-American homeowners to the village over the next four years. The rest of the money would fund the outreach program.
The decree allows the village time to pay off the judgment, but requires that a payment of nearly $1 million be divided among three escrow accounts within 60 days of the court’s approval. Beginning in June 2017, Island Park will have to pay $12,000 per month for 78 months to satisfy the remainder of the judgment. “We asked for smaller payments over a longer period of time, beginning after the village gets back on its feet from Sandy,” Millus said, “and we got it.”
He said that the tax increase would now amount to 1.6 percent, about $20 a year for a taxpayer with a home worth $400,000.
Resident Ellen Ambrosia asked why the original homeowners, many of whom made a profit from their subsidized homes, should not be required to pay the judgment.
“Some homeowners, all of whom were named in the original lawsuit, did pay penalties, settled with the government,” Millus said. “There was some measure of retribution. Why do we have to pay for the sins of our fathers? Because the court says we do.”
Mayor James Ruzicka, who sat quietly during the attorney’s presentation and the residents’ questions, had the last word. “As far as I’m concerned,” he said with finality, “this is over.”